JUNE – JULY, 2021

This is an update on May and June at the MBSNS centre. Along with the regular study, Dhyan, and sports, the highlights for this month included a workshop for children on understanding good and bad touch and a parents learners (facilitators and students) meeting.

Focus on learning languages

The Hindi Class – In April, children started with reading simple Hindi text and learning to write summaries. In May and June, they began engaging with the language in new ways. Children prepared a song in Hindi, which they chose from the songs they had heard at the centre. They prepared the song ‘tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet mein yakin kar’.  They also prepared a play with Abhimanyu’s help. It had been over a month since the children moved into the centre, and they started missing their parents. Due to the covid protocol, children were not allowed to meet the parents while at the centre. Although they were allowed to call home on Sundays, a new activity of writing letters to the family was also initiated. Engaging in these activities gave children a sense of achievement, which they could be proud of. Their previous engagement around learning was restricted to just reading and writing, which did not give them that sense of achievement.

In these months, some concepts of grammar were also introduced like सर्वनाम and विशेषण (pronouns and adjectives). At the same time, working on phonetics is a continuous process as few sounds in regional language are quite intermixed in pronunciation like र (Ra) and ड (Da), स (Sa) and श (Sha).

The English Class- In April children learned the basics of phonetics and vocabulary building exercises in English. We made our first phonetic videos and completed all 26 alphabets by June.

In May and June, the two-hour English slot was reorganized into three parts – immersion songs, the introduction of a new concept, and reading or writing groups or games (depending on what children chose).

The children have come a long way since April. When they came to the centre, they knew alphabets and could read three-letter words without understanding the meaning. In these last two months, they now sing along a selection of 6 songs displayed on a projector screen. This repertoire of songs has 3-4 nursery rhymes like Old Mac Donald had a farm, to anthems like Imagine (by John Lennon), what a wonderful world (Louis Armstrong), the sound of silence (Simon & Garfunkel), and action songs like Ram sum sum. These two months focused on understanding and learning nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, and other parts of speech through fun and interesting activities like charades and other games.

Parents Learners (Facilitators- students) meeting (PLM)

13th June was a special day. It was the first parents meeting at the centre. In some cases, both parents could not come due to financial constraints. For example, Jaikrishnaji could not come because he had to tend to the mango orchard, which they have leased this year. Reeta Devi and Hareram Bhaiya had similar financial constraints, while Sanjay Paswan has migrated to Bengal for work. In other cases, younger siblings came, enthusiastic and clingy, curious about their older sibling’s new home – The Centre.

The centre facilitators shared their idea of holistic education with the parents. Abhimanyu emphasized the need for parents to interact with teachers and caregivers, as this provided a two-way interaction and allowed for a common aim for their children. He shared how all children were bright and a joy to work with. He also reiterated that children enjoyed learning and there was more to learning than just memorization. Mithun further talked about the schedule at the centre and how each child followed the same and sometimes went over and above the schedule putting in additional shram daan (manual work) or study hours. He talked about pedagogy and interactions with respective teachers of English, Hindi, Maths, Science, and Computers. Sangeeta talked about children’s well-being and different learning styles.

Everybody, including children, parents, and facilitators, introduced themselves. This was followed by a skit that children had prepared as part of their Hindi class. Over the last two months, older children have written stories in their English class, which was also typed in their computer class. Each child chose one story which they read in English and then explained in Hindi. This was followed by the children giving their parents a copy of the compilation of stories named “Our First Book” and a letter each child had written to their parents in Hindi class. This session ended with children singing the song “tu zinda hai to zindagi ki jeet men yakeeen kar.”

After the children left, the parents and caretakers sat for an open session, in which parents gave their feedback and discussed their children’s wellbeing at the centre. Most were very happy to see that their children had adjusted well and did not want to leave the centre to go home. They were also impressed by the confidence they saw in their children. All of them were convinced they wanted their children to continue at the centre. We also discussed holidays and the academic calendar, emphasizing that we did not want children to take frequent leaves. Parents suggested holidays during the festive season, and together we have worked out a holiday calendar till 15th March 2022. Mandavi, one of the mothers asked if all parents should contribute to the running of the centre and it was decided that each would do what they can. For example, those who were daily wage labourers would try and give sharm daan at the centre; those with more stable incomes would try contributing financially; and those with farming would contribute in kind.

The Personal Safety Workshop

On 9th June, we organized a workshop on personal safety facilitated by Mithun and Abhimanyu. The workshop used a module from Arpan, aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. It introduced the idea of good and bad touch and explained the need to reach out for help from adults in their trusted circle.

Tree Plantation

Love is a special quality that children have, and their love has no boundaries. This thought is beautifully captured in a famous Hindi song “जो भी प्यार से मिला हम उसी के हो लिए” (becoming one with everyone who meets us with love). The centre has a patch for planting trees and a small plot marked for farming. From the very first day, children have loved the idea of planting, watering, and caring for plants. They have also found different levels of connections with the stray dogs, who have found a home at the centre, by petting, feeding and hugging them. This is their silent connection with nature – plants and dogs. A world dominated by the anthropocentric view has made nature peripheral to our existence; we hope children growing up at the centre will be able to find their connection with nature. It is with this thought in mind that children were part of a plantation drive this monsoon, taking ownership and responsibility of attending to one tree they planted.

And so it goes on … learning in and out of classrooms. In the spirit of holistic education, children continue to engage with physical exercises, sports like athletics, kho kho and kabaddi in the evening, and Dhyan. Though mostly the everyday shram daan involves cleaning and working in the field and caring for trees on campus, but sometimes children find creative ways of doing shram daan. For instance, Rani decided to be the centre barber, styling children’s hair. Not only was it a creative pursuit but it also meant we could limit the outside exposure of the centre inhabitants during these COVID-19 times- one hairstyle at a time!

We are available at Abhimanyu (9460969188) ashekhawat.16@stu.aud.ac.in kamayani (9771950248) kamayani02@yahoo.com, mbsnsbihar@gmail.com


March, 2023 – Last month of the academic year

Cataloguing Books for the library

The month started with about a thousand books being unpacked. These were mostly English books for children sent by friends, who were running a library in Dumraon but for various reasons found it difficult to continue the library there and decided to donate the books for the Jeevanshala children. The TL team patiently documented all the books and unpacked them.

Coping with Loss


We lost Nisha, one of our first TLs (Teacher Learner). She joined us with a high spirit, though she was fighting an undiagnosed illness, which led to high fevers, fatigue and weight loss, she stayed with us till she could, making Teaching Learning materials, bringing innovations to the classroom and coping with her studies.

The children talked about Nisha didi, the little things they remembered most about her, the spices she got to class when introducing them to different kinds of spices, the small goodies she stole into the centre to share with the children, her frustration with them, when they were being difficult, but above all her love and commitment to them. We had a small remembrance of Nisha and visited her grave where holi, was celebrated with her, not in her form but in spirit. The children laid gulal and flowers, where she rested.

Shadow Puppet Show 1 @the centre

About 60 students of classes V and VI, from the neighbouring private school Araria Public School (APS) came over and the jeevanshala students did their first public show for an outside audience, but in their home turf 🙂

Shadow Puppet Show 2 @ the neighbouring Government School

The second show was at the local Government school, where the audience was over 200 school children from classes 5 to 8. The challenge was an allien surrounding, an audience with a very short attention span, but the Jeevanshala children completed their performance unhindered by the chaos and noise, from the audience and so we have conquered the non-home-turf space 🙂

Shadow Puppet Show 2 @ The Vidya Vihar Residential School Parora, Purnea

This show at the Vidya Vihar School was very challenging. A bus ride of two hours took us to the school. The bus ride was fun and all 45 of us TLs and students enjoyed playing antakshri and looking at the semal and gulmohar in full bloom, along the highway. But in the school auditorium the sheer size and high tech set up was intimidating. However thanks to our very friendly hosts, their wonderful refreshments and a beautiful audience of over 250 school children we really enjoyed the show.

In the audience were also our young friend Sameeksha and her mother Daisy ji, who kept our morale high. Sameeksha also took wonderful photos, which you can see above.

Parents’ TL Meet

As we ended the academic year and children headed back to their villages we organised a meeting with the parents. Each child’s parents were met separately and their child’s strengths and prospective areas of development were discussed. We also met collectively, watching the puppet shows the children had prepared and then discussing what were some of the things we needed to keep in mind as the children headed home to be with their families – controlled access to devices and junk food, focus on physical and mental labour equally and other such things that are emphasised daily at the centre. We ere again reminded of the hard lives our children faced, as most father’s could not come to the PTM because they were away from bihar doing migrant work in different parts of the country

Selection of new Students

As our old students stepped out of the Jeevanshala, ready to take on the outside world, after having completed their VIII standard exams, they made space for new students. We have a group of bright children joining us this semester. Assessment of the child’s learning abilities and their own and parent’s interest in the child’s education were assessed at the Jeevanshala, in interviews and assessment, that lasted for two days.

Assessment of a new applicant

December 2022: ending the year strong

What a year we have had! So much learning, unlearning, re-learning, and co-learning. This year, our children have surprised us, strengthened us, and sustained us. And we hope that they continue to flourish in years to come…

A highlight of this month was the sports day. We value sports at Jeevanshala not just for the physical stamina that it builds, but also for the team-spiritedness and sense of equality sports can foster among children. Here are a few photos of the sports day this year:

Another important year end activity at the Mosamat Budhiya Jeevanshala was the disability sensitisation workshop. For sometime we had been planning this workshop, building towards inclusive education, but we soon realised that our resource persons, were finding it difficult to reach this far away place, and our team stepped up with help from Kshama (a TISS alumni and active member of the Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal ). Kshama gave us an online training and a team of the Jeevanshala TLs and a parent, came together and conducted a day long workshop where children went through four different rooms, where activities were set up for them to experience first hand what it felt like to live with a disability. We ended the day with watching Satyamaev Jayate episode on disability

Also following up on an earlier TOTO (Theatre of the Oppressed) workshop we did another workshop. Our experience has showed us that when children seem to act in ways that are contrary to the accepted rules of the Jeevanshala, it does not always help to have discussions and lectures, but to have them play out what is happening with them and TOTO gives us the space to do this. The day of making freezes and images with TOTO techniques, goes a long way in reflecting on what is happening and why we are engaging in it.

Following our annual tradition, the MBSNS Jeevanshala celebrated Christmas with everyone together. We talked about why Christmas is celebrated. The junior grouping had made a tiny Christmas tree and Vibhore got some candies for the children, which they picked up and gifted to someone in the group saying “Merry Christmas” till everyone in the hall had candy and a tiny taste of Christmas 🙂 

Puttu gave birth to six little ones and the children are spending a lot of time loving them and caring for them.

Ambedkar Nagar NFE centre continued, with children moving to written work, along with a lot of play, reading and activities.

I hear… i forget
I see … i remember
i do … i understand

And we had are usual share of arts and crafts, in the Saturday workshops.

November 2022- a month of usual & extraordinary

The month of November was full of usual activities mixed with a few extraordinary ones. We welcomed the students back on November 15th, and all students lined up and cheered for each other as seen in the photo below. It is this kind of togetherness and solidarity among students that keeps us going.

Have you ever been frustrated with the excessive wastage that cleaning supplies generate? We were and so we recycled our old mop by reusing its metal and handle and replacing the cloth section with discarded clothes. See the photos below. It turned out great!

Now, some glimpses of the usual (or are they? :)) activities at Jeevanshala, the Ambedkar centre, and around.

Last but certainly not least, on Constitution day, our students performed a play at a nearby school. A proud moment for us!

October, 2022 – A Year Later at Eklavya, Bhopal

October brought with it several activities but also some down time for repair and restoration. As photos below show, we made a trip to Eklavya, Bhopal. With our long-time co-travelers at Eklavya, we refreshed what we had learnt one year ago. We further worked on social science and science teaching and learning for middle school. As always, we came back energized and inspired and look forward to future co-learning and collaborations with Eklavya.

Although October was a month of holiday at the Jeevanshala, we used this time to repair and restoration. As seen in the photos below, we trimmed the trees and flora around– a process that reminds us that any growth requires grooming and care.

Finally, to mark and the festive break for durga puja, diwali, and chath, we put up lights at the gate of our centre. May these lights dispel all darkness of injustice and guide us to peace, justice, and resilience!

September, 2022 – The Theatre Month

Photos above are from the “Theatre of the Oppressed” workshop held at the jeevanshala, this month. This style of theatre believes in dialogue with the audience as contradictory to conventional theatre practice. The issue is selected by the performers and in between the act, audience is called for interaction or discussion on the issue. The theme choosen by the Jeevanshala children was teasing, bullying and thus children were asked to come up with a story from the centre which they din’t like. The story was then depicted in the form of an image by groups. Sharing some photos below.

In another theatre exercise this month, Shiv Bhai a cultural worker, theatre person and old friend of the MBSNS centre visited the jeevanshala and engaged the children in a day long theatre workshop, mostly getting them to think for themselves of what they see around them. Children participated enthusiastically chugging the children’s rail around the campus, imaging their homes and clpuring them bright, singing and making theatre images, while Shiv Bhai engaged them in the various activities. Some photos of the day below.

Daily milk distribution
grapefruits from Priyankas’s family tree 🙂
Fish meals once a month

As the Jeevanshala focuses on the development of the mind and body, this month like all others saw nutritious and healthy meals, accompanied with daily milk distribution, and local seasonal fruits, including but not limited to grapefruits that one of our teachers sent from her family tree 🙂 And another welcome addition to the children’s diet has been – FISH – a generous grandfather contributes every month for the children’s monthly non-veg meal, which brings much joy to the children, for whom fish is a regular, low cost, often sourced without additional expense meal at home.

Regular classes continued at the Jeevanshala. Photos above (clockwise) We visit the local carpenter Shayam ji as part of learning about woodwork (class V, EVS); English class using theatre to increase our vocabulary; Games with word cards, prepared by children to learn english words they have choosen to learn; Craft activity as part of the Hindi class; Creative creations from the hindi class; Learning to read the time; English assessment in progress with Babunand and Neetu, children have learnt over hundred English words, as part of their initial vocabulary through games and fun activities, including bingo, kaun aaya, kaun gaya, card jhapatta and many more.

Kids had fun today. Senior and Junior students took the class on the occasion of Teacher’s Day. In the role of Teacher Learner, he looked very serious and was great to see everyone’s interest

On 5th September, Teacher’s day, the children from senior and junior groupings shared with us that they wanted to celebrate teachers’ day and make us halwa. We shared our own experiences of schooling and how we used to take classes and be teachers for a day. And so it was, when we reached the centre the children had taken over as teachers. Very sensitive and beautiful, their interaction with all the children.

Children being teacher learners in different classes … Computers, Hindi, English, Maths, EVS

30th September, was the last working day of this semester. We met each parent, and spoke to them emphasizing the need to take care of children, and not pampering them with junk food and smart phone access. It was also decided that since the centre was run with community donations, parents, though from the most marginalised communities will try to contribute one sack of rice for their child learning at the centre. Ramchander ji and Bina Devi sign the paper work, as they prepare to head back with their son Laddu Kumar, one of the many bright children at the centre.

August, 2022 – Opening up of Bank accounts

August saw the beginning of the Children’s bank at the Jeevanshala. Children at the Jeevanshala have their own passbooks and operate their own accounts. They deposit their cash with the Bank Manager (also the Centre Sanchalak) Rabindra Bhaiya. Whenever they need any commodity, they fill a requisition slip. Once they receive their item, Rabindra Bhaiya updates their passbook with the amount left. While almost all children have visited a bank with their parents and families, the chaos and poor treatment (stemming from prejudice towards illiterate and working people) given to their families is no way to start financial inclusion for the children. The bank therefore is a initiation into banking at an early age, in a dignified and respectful manner.

In August we celebrated two festivals. One Rakshabandhan and other Independence day. On Rakhi we invited the children’s parents and siblings at the center. Jeevanshala believes in gender equity and thus we tie rakhis on each others hand, irrespective of caste, class, gender and age barriers, vowing to take care of each other. Also on Independence day, we hoisted the tri-colour, distributed Jalebis and discussed ideas of true Independence which believes in the idea of justice, equality and liberty for all. We reiterated our commitments.

Every month we conduct a workshop on various issues of relevance to the children. In august, we conducted a workshop on health and hygiene. During this children made clay models of germs, painted some rules on sheets and watched short videos.

July, 2022- at the Jeevanshala

Unlike conventional classroom spaces, children at Jeevanshala are free to use the floor for various activities. This helps in expressing themselves not just through writing or drawing, but also through their body language.

MBSNS Jeevanshala TLs have been providing training to youths working with children on story reading. Story reading and writing is an integral part of our classes and is an important tool for developing language skills and imagination.

Sangeeta leads a session in the story telling workshop, for youth!

In the month of July came special guests from Delhi Government Schools, Isha, Rajni and our old friend Megha to look into our ways of working with children. During our two days interaction, we shared lot of learnings with each other. Kanika was also here who is pursuing her PhD from USA. We also visited a nearby government school together and discussed issues and differences of facilities in Delhi and Araria.

June, 2022 – Monsoon preparation at the Jeevanshala

June is the beginning of heavy rainfall in Araria. Thus we decided to construct a brick pathway inside the center. Children constructed this pathway in their morning shramdaan.

Early in the month we had an intense discussion with Nasir bhai a Journalist and an old friend of the Jeevanshala. Nasir bhai started the discussion with ‘What do you want to become in life ?’ Children came up with interesting replies and then the discussion went into introspection of their choice.

Nasir Bhai with the children

Sex education is an integral part of learning at the Jeevanshala. We revisited the earlier discussion about good and bad touch reiterating the safety rule.

We continued learning with nature. There is a forest area nearby and some classes are conducted under its shady trees.

Learning in Jeevanshala is done through lots of hands on activities and ‘learning by doing’. This month included the introduction of a sentence making board game. Also in Mathematics, while learning about measurement, we used a measuring tape to learn the actual or approximate lengths so as to get idea of real measurements in day to day life.

End of summer Break, preparation for learning

Post the summer break, all of us met and greeted each other with love and hugs. After the initial get together, everyone got into a frenzied cleaning spree – fans, almirahs, carpets were brushed, rooms and floors were scrubbed clean and we got started. This was a great management feat on the part of the children, who assigned and distributed tasks themselves and were fully responsible for the entire cleaning spree.

Next day, all teacher learners (TL) sat down for planning their respective subjects. New Mathematics classes were started at Ambedkar Nagar Center. May also saw a lot of visitors bringing a lot of learning for children. Three interns from the Azim Premji University (APU) visited our center. They discussed with the children about the beauty of regional and cultural diversity around food habits, clothing, language etc. Satyendra, a Dalit Youth activist, associated with CSEI and the national Youth Forum, spent an evening with the children and played a game together where th children had to introduce themselves with an imaginative story. Creating stories at the moment and adding funny imagination to them was fun.

April, 2022 – The summer Break for learning

We had an almost 45 day break this summer, in which the Teacher Learners (TL) team along with senior group students visited the Nature camp at jeolikot (Naital, uttarakhand). Our generous host Paras Bhai, made it a most memorable experience for all of us. But before we go into this beautiful story, we must let you know that while we were away in the HImalayas on a learning expedition, our team back in Araria, made infrsatructural advances, to welcome the new students we were planning to bring on campus, in the months of May-June.

The much awaited trip to Nainital …

If u remember, in November 2021 we had told you about Paras and Shurti’s visit to Araria. They invited us to their Nature Camp, Camp Sparrow, in Jeolikot, Nainital. We were all very enthusiastic and excited about the visit. Here is a small photo update on our trip, which ended with a day well spent in Delhi.

Boating trip in Nainital

Clockwise: Walk to the Arboretum; Starting the day with a healthy drink; With the forester, at the Arboretum; Interaction at the local school and finally a walk through the arboretum with the local school children.

The day ended with a sombre and ebautiful musical evening.. here is a short clip of the jugalbandi by Paras Bhai on the guitar and Gaurav Bhai on the tabla.

And with the halt in Delhi, our trip came to an end and we boarded seemanchal express to Araria.